Public funds went up in smoke at the start of the year when Sydney saw in the New Year in its usual over-the-top way. It may seem un-Australian to say this out loud, but do you think Sydney’s NYE celebrations are over-the-top and in these variable economic times should be scaled down?
No politician will touch this debate, which probably means they are scared that people will hate them even more, but will they? I have conducted a thorough survey (asked three friends) and all of them thought that the fireworks were overly extravagant and a waste of public funds and that they were beginning to get, well, kind of boring. They have a point. Once you’ve seen the Harbour Bridge look like a massive electrical explosion half a dozen times you’ve seen enough fireworks. In fact, is it just me, or did this year’s lightbulb visual look like a penis? OK, just me.
My in-depth survey also revealed that the fireworks are aimed at pleasing international tourists and the uber-rich (it’s a night when opera tickets cost $400 and that doesn’t even include a $70 bottle of champagne) and anyone lucky enough to be invited to the Lord Mayor’s Party.
The official figure on the cost of the fireworks is $7.2m but what is the betting it is even higher than that. The taxpayer (apart from those taxpayers who are happy to wait around for 12 hours in a harbourside spot with no alcohol) are probably not getting $7.2m worth of value, especially when there are cutbacks to basic and not-so-basic services.
Pollies think we love our fireworks, that it defines Sydney and that it brings lots of tourists and makes us look special to the rest of the world.
All of this may be true, but I’d like to think we are grown up enough that if a politician was brave enough to explain to us the real cost of the fireworks and what that meant we had to forego (decent public transport, hospital beds, bins on Bondi Beach just for starters) then people might be inclined to accept a scaled-down version of this extravaganza. Surely we are grown up enough now that we don’t actually have to overcompensate to make the rest of the world love us.
Here’s some alternative ideas – fireworks that run for a shorter duration, a sound and light show, more emphasis on spreading out celebrations to Sydney’s major centres like Parramatta, Chatswood etc.
It’s time we put a lid on how much, as a society, we are prepared to pay for 15 minutes of fleeting fame, when public infrastructure and services are strained. I reckon it’s a cracker of an idea. What about you?